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Avoiding a 'Post-Stress
Immune-Suppression Episode'

Paracelsus, a physician often associated with the first use of ether as a painkiller, offered this prescription for treating patients circa 1500: "We must therefore understand that when we administer medicine, we administer the whole world: that is, all the virtue of heaven and earth, air and water. Because if there is sickness in the body, all the healthy organs must fight against it."

David Felten, chair of the University's Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, is a research specialist who studies the ways the nervous and immune systems interact. As the interview is being conducted in early winter, and the media's most popular story seems to be the potential devastation of the upcoming flu season, it seems pertinent to ask him what he would tell a friend who might come to him for advice on how to stay healthy.

"Avoid stress," Felten says, smiling. "We have become acutely aware of how stressors act on our health. In our department, we'll see some poor harried investigator just completing his ninth grant application of the year, and as he puts it in the mail, we can set our watches as to when he'll show symptoms of his post-stress immune-suppression episode--a cold."

How does Felten, with his monster-sized workload of departmental administration, teaching duties, and research, himself avoid stress? "I do needlepoint," he says. "I've even created a few of my own designs."

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